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The World's Religions

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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  5,961 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Huston Smith's masterpiece explores the essential elements and teachings of the world's predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the native traditions of Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

Emphasizing the inner—rather than the institutional—dimension of these religions, Smith devotes special attenti
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Paperback, 431 pages
Published 1991 by Harper One / Harper Collins Publishers (first published 1958)
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Nathaniel
The seminal inaccurate "world religions" volume for the ages. While Smith's coverage of the Judeo-Christian tradition is excellent and his treatment of Islam is adequate, he has a hard time getting away from the Middle Eastern/monotheistic perspective and allows it to color his writing. Consequently this book becomes less and less accurate the farther East he gets and the more different from the Judeo-Christian tradition the religions become. His handling of Buddhism and Taoism is particularly s ...more
ياسمين خليفة
هذا الكتاب أشبه بموسوعة عن الأديان السماوية منها والأرضية والبدائية وما يميزه أن مؤلفه لم يسخر من أي دين بل قدم كل دين من وجهة نظر معتقنيه , حاول أن يبرز الجوانب الجميلة في كل الأديان وشرح فلسفتها بطريقة مبسطة وسهلة , الكتاب ضخم ومرهق لكنه ملىء بالمعلومات المفيدة التي ستجعلك تفهم أديان الآخرين أكثر وفهمك لكل الديانات سيجعلك تدرك أن نقاط الاتفاق بين الأديان أكثر من نقاط الاختلاف ومع ذلك فإنك يجب أن تحترم هذا الاختلاف وتدرك أن كل دين هو طريقة مختلفة للوصول إلى الله
Cappy
The book is thoroughly uneven - strong at some points (Hinduism, Buddhism, articulating the merits of the world's wisdom tradtions) and weak at others (Judaism, Tribal religions, covering the nuts and bolts of the world's religions).

"As it was, the first 'draft' of my book was delivered to a television audience, and the director of the series never let me forget that audience. This is not a classroom where you have a captive audience, he kept reminding me. If you lose their attention for thirty
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Paul
No doubt a popular book in terms of numbers of copies sold. The author is a highly respected scholar on world religions who has taught at some of the most prestigious universities in America. He also grew up in China and has imbibed the rituals of most of the religions he's studied. So why the two stars:

* Smith is a pluralist. I find this position doesn't allow for the most rigorous and critical analysis of the religious positions presented.

Indeed, I find this position ironically gives the least
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Paul
Huston Smith's "The World's Religions" is one of the most significant books I've ever read. Smith digs underneath the rituals, theology, and cold historical facts to capture why some of these major religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, are so deeply and meaningfully profound to billions and billions of people. One may disagree about whether any of these religious faiths speak the the absolute or partial truth regarding the meaning of our existence or reality, but ea ...more
Jamie
Huston provides a powerful punch of wonderous delight for the world's historical religions. I was left in awestuck wonder at how beautiful, pragmatic, and well thought out information that he articluates in this excellent book. This is an unbias fact base book that adhears to the positive side that religion provides (aside from the negativity that is obviously present within every religion, he bypasses that notion and delves into the heart and soul of each practice.)

I sat on my comfy sofa feelin
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Grace
I picked up this book thinking that this would be a good refresher, after all I'm a worldly woman who knows so much about other religions! Right? Yeah, I'm embarrassed about how smug that sounds, too. After perusing (in the truly correct use of that word) its pages, I honestly cannot believe how little I knew. And to be completely honest, I am still struggling to grasp all of the information presented by Smith.

This book is amazing. Smith readily admits that his work is not comprehensive (and rea
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Qt
A very nicely-put-together book, this consists of chapters written by various authors on different facets of religion: pilgrimages, prayers, modern directions of the church, etc. My favorite part was the photos, which were of National Geographic-type quality and showed people performing various religious activities, as well as some beautiful shots of temples, churches, and scenery.
While not really something I would ordinarily just pick up to read, it was a very easy-reading book--very interesti
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Eric
I read this book for a World Religions class which was actually the intro class, but I took it at the end :) I didn't expect much from a 101 class, but this book really grabbed me. As Smith says in the beginning, 'There are plenty of sources dealing with the negative aspects of religions and religious strife over the years. This book focuses on the positive aspects, the ideal each religion is striving for.'

It really opened up new worlds to me, and it was a breath of fresh air to have Christianit
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James
My rating should really be split into two: 5/5 for the art and 2/5 for the written content. The photographs and artworks in The Illustrated World's Religions are gorgeous, and highly illustrative of the various faiths in question. But the text is riddled with sweeping generalities. Peoples with highly different faiths and worldviews are lumped together: the final chapter, "The Primal Religions", includes Australian Aborigines, Native Americans, and various peoples of Africa and New Guinea as all ...more
Lon
My spiritual imagination has stretched so much in the thoughtful reading of this venerable guide. For over 50 years, Huston Smith's book has served as a scholarly introduction to the most enduring wisdom traditions of the world: Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, as well as providing a fascinating study of primal spirituality. He goes deep, but avoids getting mired in the rituals and organizational structures; instead, he gets to the cultural impulses, the tensions, re ...more
Nathan
A fine overview of the world's major religions and their primary subdivisions. The book's first strength lies in its unbiased writing: one can tell that Smith equally reveres each of the religions. In this vein, Smith beautifully extracts the essence of each religion, providing the core that cleanly shows why and how people place their faith. This portrays each religion in its most desirable and respectable light.

Religion is a complex social phenomenon and cannot be fully separated from the hist
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Dan Martin
I am currently reading this book and find it very insightful, interesting, and educational. Huston's writing style expresses with great respect how each of the religious belief systems resonate from the souls of the people into unique expressions of their deep longings for life purpose. I found myself wondering which of these religious expressions that he identified with most profoundly and I kept thinking it must be with all of them. While he described fundamental shortcomings for each he also ...more
Doug
Excellent, thorough, balanced and insightful descriptions of the history and beliefs of the major world religions. Considering how limited my knowledge was before, I am vastly more educated on the subject having read this book. Everyone in the world should read this. The author manages to discuss each religion as if he were a believer and practitioner of that religion. That makes every section very positive, and as far as I could tell, there was no bias for or against any particular one. One thi ...more
A
A number of the reviews touch upon the issues with this book, which I believe are inherent in the format Smith chooses. That is, rather than couch his survey of the religions in historical details or more in-depth study, he focuses on the key elements while seeking the core wisdom of each system. This is an excellent approach for communicating what is valuable within each tradition, but is bound to frustrate those seeking more historical/cultural context or those with more detailed knowledge of ...more
Alexis
smith certainly is looking at religions thru the lense of his christian upbringing - often making references that were lost on me because he was assuming his readership had a similar christian education - e.g. "blah blah is considered the Hindu Thomas Aquinas." i don't know what that means. i know thomas aquinas wrote a book. end of my knowledge about him. plus the book is structured so that christianity is discussed last, like the cherry-on-top, so there are some akward passages where he tries ...more
Thom Foolery
I've always found Huston Smith insightful, lucid, and fun to read, and so I chose this as one of my course textbooks (when the previous textbook came out in a new edition---for $110!). In spite of its lack of much primary source material (which Philip Novak's collection of scriptures supplements), this is an excellent introduction to the major religions of the world, "our wisdom traditions." Smith's concise chapters describe the big religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, I ...more
Kathryn
Nov 16, 2007 Kathryn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about humanity!
An absolutely wonderful book, filled with genuine passion and humanity in addition to scholarly accounts. My fabulous professor chose this book for the Introduction to World Religions course I took while in business school and this helped spark the embers of my passion for studying religion and lead my course for graduate school! It's an excellent introduction though, keep in mind, it is only an "introduction." The standard description posted above is a good representation. Two items to keep in ...more
Brandon
The World's Religions is one of the most insightful introductory texts to the distinct religions in the world one will discover. It was through this book that allows me to give a one-word definition for each of the definitions; for without them I will perhaps will not remember the words, the brilliance, and social implications Smith brought into an extremely well-written eulogy of the world's religions. Whilst I continue to remain an agnostic atheist, I will have had the opportunity to qualify m ...more
Mark
An interesting primer on World Religions. Smith tends to take a very positive approach to the Religions, oftentimes glossing over or ignoring the many problems that religions have caused. However, that criticism aside, Smith starts with the Eastern Faiths and makes Hindusim, Buddhism and Taoism instantly accessible and understandable. By the time the Western reader engages the Western Faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, he or she will know enough of the Eastern faiths to draw comparisons ...more
David G
Mar 14, 2009 David G rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Please who love to read and learn just sake of it.
Shelves: own-it, textbooks
I both loved and hated this book. It was a textbook for a World's religions class I took. As a textbook about religion it is the most convoluted mess that makes it horrible task to read as an assignment. But please, don't let that detract you. I think that if I had been able to read the book at a leisurely pace(rather than digesting a new religion each week) I would have greatly enjoyed it. The book will take you on journey that will greatly expand your understanding of religion from a philosoph ...more
Matty
A great book on understanding the world's religions, their histories, and how they've shaped the cultures their situated in. After reading this book, you'll find you have a better understanding and more open mind of different belief systems, and also understand just how similar we all are. It covers the major Christian denominations, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Shintoism in the most detail. Huston Smith does a fantastic job at presenting each religion from an objective standpoint, whi ...more
Caroline Kipps
This was an accessible survey of the world's main religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, et al. I found myself underlining (!) and have placed it on a permanent shelf because I can see myself turning to this book again. Smith is direct that this is an overview of the religions, and in no way comprehensive. Nonetheless, I think I have a greater understanding of the overarching beliefs of the religions with which I was less familiar. I definitely recommend this classic for any ...more
Ed
An extraordinary well written, deeply sympathetic guide to the religions of the world, written by a Christian scholar who manages to get inside the skin of each belief system, understand it from within and sympathetically describe its core beliefs and practices to outsiders. Not a history of religions but an outline of the core beliefs. It has been repeatedly updated. Covers Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and very briefly Tribal religions in that order. En ...more
Cicadinae
I can't speak to the accuracy of the book because I am only very slightly familiar with the religions presented, but I really liked the presentation of the book. The author was good about letting the reader know when he was going on a bit of a tangent or leaving out a lot of information for the sake of simplicity. While leaving out information can be problematic, in a book that is trying to have such a large scope while still being accessible to the common reader, I felt he made good decisions. ...more
Andrew Hunt
Jul 12, 2012 Andrew Hunt rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Grandpa
I would have preferred a more factual presentation. As is, the book focuses primarily on philosophical generalizations derivable from events and doctrines whose historical development (and evidence-based justification) Smith leaves by the wayside. It's worth a read if you're already well acquainted with the facts and want an introduction to the spirit of each religion, but it wouldn't make a good textbook. Smith's ideas and evident first-hand knowledge are, however, admirable.
Michael
As a basic introduction to world religions, you can't do much better than this. If you already feel you are well grounded in different traditions it's not necessarily a book you would want to pick up. Smith develops a theme for each religion that structures the chapter and enables the reader to walk away with one core concept about each tradition. This is particularly effective in getting at what he thinks is the tradition's essential spiritual viewpoint.
Megan
Uh, well, I kinda read this one. :) It was more dense than I am used to, it took me a long time to read and I couldn't renew it anymore at the library so I had to take it back before I finished it. I got about a 1/3 to 1/2 through it and I thought it was excellent. As one critic said, it really captures the "spirit" of major religions instead of focusing on dogma or traditions. I am considering purchasing so I can finish it and have it as a reference book.
Julianna Lopez
In The World’s Religions, Houston Smith discusses exactly that, the world’s religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Primal Religions. Houston’s style of writing presents the information about each religion with respect and reverence. He discusses the origins and history of each religion as well as their legends and mystical stories without the slightest bias or condescension. He writes in a way that makes it impossible to read about theses religions ...more
William Thomas
Not a particularly interesting book for anyone who has had even the most basic of ethics or morals courses, but a very clear and concise picture of the major world religions (with the exception of taoism and confucianism, which were a little blurry). Not much to say here except that anyone trying to gain a clearer understanding of religions in their purest, undiluted and doctrinal forms should probably give it a try.
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أين يوجد 1 13 May 08, 2012 02:22PM  
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Smith was born in Soochow, China to Methodist missionaries and spent his first 17 years there. He taught at the Universities of Colorado and Denver from 1944–1947, moving to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for the next ten years, and then Professor of Philosophy at MIT from 1958–1973. While at MIT he participated in some of the experiments with entheogens that professor Timothy Leary ...more
More about Huston Smith...
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“What a strange fellowship this is, the God seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full throated chorus?

We cannot know. All we can do is to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine.”
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“Never during its pilgrimage is the human spirit completely adrift and alone. From start to finish its nucleus is the Atman, the god-within... underlying its whirlpool of transient feelings, emotions, and delusions is the self-luminous, abiding point of the transpersonal god. As the sun lights the world even when cloud-covered, “the Immutable is never seen but is the Witness; it is never heard but is the Hearer; it is never thought but is the Thinker; it is never known but is the Knower. There is no other witness but This, no other knower but This." from the Upanishad” 3 likes
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